The Robotics team at Dexter's Mill Creek Middle School work together


The Mill Creek robotics team in competition mode. photo courtesy of Mill Creek Middle School

The robotics team at Mill Creek Middle School has had success this school year because they are combining some good ingredients: learning, creativity and teamwork.

There are 10 members on the team made up of 7th and 8th graders from Mill Creek. The First Technical Challenge (FTC) team for Dexter finished 1st as the Winning Alliance in the Detroit Qualifier and they made it to their first State Championship since the start of the program.

To learn more about the team, the Sun Times News (STN) connected with some of the students and their advisor, David Yon, who is a teacher at the school.

STN asked the students what they like about robotics.

“I love that you get to build and create something that works,” said Mill Creek student Elliot McMichael.

His teammate, Luke Cipolla, said “I liked that it was inviting and that you could go into it without past experience,” while Fynn Nielsen said “That we are able to learn skills for the future and we get to build robots.”

Yon said the season kicked off in September, when the team attended the Power Play FTC Kickoff at the University of Michigan.

According to the FTC website, “the competition for the 2022-2023 FTC season game is POWERPLAY. The POWERPLAY challenge features game elements such as Cones, Junctions, Substations, and Terminals. At the start of the match, each robot begins against their alliance wall and is able to be pre-loaded with one cone. Once the match starts, teams race to score cones and create circuits during the thirty second autonomous period followed by the two minute driver controlled period. During the last thirty seconds of the match called the end game, teams continue to score cones and have the opportunity to cap a junction with a beacon and park in their alliance's terminal for extra points…”

In November, the Mill Creek team participated in the Howell Qualifier and placed in 9th place out of 36 teams and then later that month they participated in the Detroit Qualifier and got 1st place, which gave them an invitation to the State Championship at Macomb Community College. In December, they went to the SE Michigan State Championship and finished around 17th in their division.

Yon said the students competed with 36 teams at the qualifier and 72 teams at the state championship. Teams competed with randomly selected alliances to try and score the most points in each round. Yon said the Mill Creek team had five qualification matches to compete in order to qualify for the final rounds.

“The teams prepared every Monday and Wednesday night at Bates,” Yon said. “Overall we put in close to 70 hours to prototype, build, and test their robot.”

As to what made the team a good one, Elliot McMichael said “the team connected and we all became friends.”

“Everyone worked well together,” said Luke Cipolla. “We had people working on different things at the same times, but still came together to compete as a team.”

Summing it up, Fynn Nielsen said, “A team is good when they are able to collaborate and communicate letting them do multiple things at the same time.”

photo courtesy of Mill Creek Middle School
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